Category Archives: Reviews

McLeod Reviews Berruz and Kalmanson (eds.), Comparative Studies in Asian and Latin American Philosophies

Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

2018.11.01 View this Review Online   View Other NDPR Reviews

Stephanie Rivera Berruz and Leah Kalmanson (eds.), Comparative Studies in Asian and Latin American Philosophies: Cross-Cultural Theories and Methodologies, Bloomsbury, 2018, 248pp., $114.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781350007888.

Reviewed by Alexus McLeod, University of Connecticut

This excellent new collection represents a bold step forward in comparative philosophy. I hope that it will find wide readership and have an influence on the development of the field. As the editors point out in their introduction, comparative philosophy (especially done within the discipline of philosophy) has long been almost exclusively concerned with study of some Non-Western tradition alongside a Western tradition. Comparative philosophy as such has constantly had the West as a frame. Berruz and Kalmanson’s praiseworthy aim in this volume is to “disrupt this trajectory . . . to ‘provincialize’ the West within comparative philosophy and to focus explicit attention on conversations across Latin America and Asia” (1). The essays in this volume present interesting ways of doing this, even while the West remains a more-or-less shadowy presence in many of the essays and an explicit player in some.

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A review (or two) of comparative studies

Being a comparativist of ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy, I thought I’d dedicate my first post to two review articles on Sino-Hellenic comparative studies that readers of the blog may or may not be aware of.

Back in 2009, the Journal of Hellenic Studies published a review article by Jeremy Tanner, reader in classical and comparative art at University College London, entitled ‘Ancient Greece, early China: Sino-Hellenic studies and comparative approaches to the classical world.’ (The Journal of Hellenic Studies , Vol. 129, (2009), pp. 89-109. Tanner memorably opens the article by addressing an all-too-realistic problem: ‘Classicists have long been weary of comparisons’ (2009:89). He proceeds to provide a useful summary of the developments in the different spheres of Sino-Hellenic comparative studies, including history of medicine, philosophy and literature. Tanner ends on the positive note that ‘there is every possibility that Sino-Hellenic studies will become one of the most stimulating disciplinary sub-field within both Classics and Sinology’ (2009:109). Being one of the first (if not the first) review article on Greek and Chinese comparative studies to be published in a major journal on Hellenic studies, it may be fair to say that the article was in some sense groundbreaking.

Earlier this year in March, the International Journal of the Classical Tradition has just published an article by Ralph Weber from the University of Zurich on comparative philosophy that responds to Tanner’s review and proposes to supplement it. The article entitled ‘A Stick Which may be Grabbed on Either Side: Sino-Hellenic Studies in the Mirror of Comparative Philosophy’ ( identifies four different approaches to comparative philosophy, addresses certain pitfalls, and ultimately focuses on the question of the close association between the subject-matter of comparisons and the political purposes that motivate them, being altogether a very different kind of review to Tanner’s.

It is always very interesting to take a step back from the work one is constantly preoccupied with and look at it in a broader context, in a sense rather like looking at a picture by ‘stepping outside the frame’. So what do you think of these two reviews?

A Spate of Reviews

Scott helpfully drew our attention recently to a review of Roger Ames’s Confucian Role Ethics (thanks!); I’d like to point out that the same issue of the Journal of Chinese Studies has several other extended and interesting reviews of other relevant books:

Review of Roger Ames, Confucian Role Ethics

Ryan Nichols and Craig Ihara have jointly written an extensive review of Roger Ames’s Confucian Role Ethics: A Vocabulary. Here is an excerpt from that review, posted here with permission. Please address any comments to Ryan and Craig.

This is a selection from our draft review, the final version of which will be published soon in Dao, of Roger Ames’ newest book Confucian Role Ethics. We post it here in order to continue conversation about this important theory. -Nichols & Ihara

There are many subjects to discuss in Confucian Role Ethics. The following discussion addresses several of the most salient issues.

Methodological problems arise in Ames’ discussion on pp. 20-35 in regard to the need to make generalizations about China, in opposition to others who say this is inadvisable. Ames’ arguments on behalf of making generalizations are somewhat weak, including assertions such as: “the only thing more dangerous than striving to make responsible cultural generalizations is failing to make them” (23). Generalizations about certain philosophical continuities between thinkers in Han and in Warring States China are appropriate and permissible so long as they are justified by textual and historical evidence. While Ames may be correct that generalizations are important for understanding Confucianism, the unaddressed but more important question is: under what evidential conditions are such generalizations justified?

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On-line Review of "Reading the Dao"

A review by Ellen Zhang of Keping Wang’s Reading the Dao: A Thematic Inquiry has been published at the Notre Dame review site. Here is an excerpt:

Reading the Dao: A Thematic Inquiry has its own agenda. As Wang suggests in the Acknowledgement, the book is meant to be read by those who are interested in Chinese language and “the Chinese way of thinking,” and as such it defines the frame of reference for non-specialists in the English-speaking world rather than Daoist scholars or Laozi scholars who are looking for a more substantial and original scholarly work. That being said, the book has a virtue of its own. It is a comprehensive overview of Laozi’s Daoism for anyone unfamiliar with the DDJ and Daoism. It is clearly written, thematically formulated, and supplemented with helpful commentaries.